Beyond the shelf: pack design for online

An urgent new reality for brands.

The rapid changes that have taken place in recent years have reshaped the consumer landscape for brands. IBM’s Retail Index indicates that the shift away from physical to online shopping was accelerated by 5 years during the period of the pandemic alone.

Whilst product packaging still very much needs to pop ‘on-shelf’, it’s absolutely essential that it competes strongly and influences purchasers on the virtual shelf… through social media, digital campaigns and e-commerce stores.

Branded packaging is presented online in a huge variety of ways: in lifestyle photos, in images of kitchens, living spaces or out-of-home locations. Pack designs could be glimpsed briefly in video clips or show up as thumbnails on an e-commerce category list.

To pop online as well as on-shelf, there are two areas where packaging design thinking needs to fundamentally re-focus:

Packs must be desirably good-looking

With the social media obsession for idealism, image manipulation and AI generation, pack designs that look good – really good – are a must. Brands must leverage the ‘I want it! What is it?’ phenomenon, that explodes in the form of a gazillion Instagram shares.

Packs must be simple, bold and original

This seems obvious, but in reality it’s hard to find brands that are doing a really good job of making sure their packs still work on a 70mm mobile screen as well as shouting from the shelf. It’s no surprise that brands such as Oatly and Rxbars are accelerating fast and outpacing their competitors with packs that pop on mobile.

Rethinking packaging design is an inevitable consequence of our recent evolution. Brands need to urgently re-evaluate for the new reality if they’re not to be left behind. Talk to us if you’d like to know more.

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